Standing with Ruth Amid the Alien Corn

April 3, 2016


Increasingly, as I am faced with radiance and abundance in art, I am unable to find words for thoughts. As if in my brain there is a market where such exchange takes place, I walk from one vendor of words to another wondering which has the language I need. I think how many words would be appropriate, but how none, or few, have the value equal to the image - each option seems a poor transaction. How tired my language seems in response to art - as cliched as Hamlet's mousetrap and as worn out as the sole Van Gogh's boot. Where are the words full of fresh blood and hot breath that have enough currency to purchase the frame to hold this work? My pockets are turned out.

As I age ever onwards away from newness and innocence and ever towards experience and guilt, the language of my passion has become bankrupt, bloodless and beat. Even these Ecclesiastian ruminations are cliched, worn over from so much handling until all that remains is a coin smeared by time into a featureless disc of metal, its value indeterminate at best. Seaglass, broken fragments of shell, bleached bones of coral, driftwood and sand compose my treasury so reduced and emptied by time. Soon I will have Nothing to say, the presence of this Nothing as palpable as Aladdin's empty cave. Another tired rhetorical chiasmus brays in my thoughts like a broken backed donkey: I no longer have the spirits I once had, but I have the bottles I drank them in. Thus do I trot out the tired monkey of hope to dance among the broken bottles while I grind my organon with the heavy hand -  hoping to convey by the absence of that selfsame hope what passion the work would have once inspired.

There's an interesting hypothetical game about which artist or poet or philosopher you would you most like to be in the body of for an hour. (Nietzsche in the thunderstorm, Van Gogh in the Cornfield, Hart Crane on the S. S. Orizaba, Rilke at Duino Castle, Plath with her head in the oven.) In my current frame, there are none. I imagine (and how pregnant that verb) even WS would be a disappointment: in the heart of Hamlet's Mill forging the the agenbite of inwit, the transposed self overwhelmed with his ripe Elizabethan body odor and fetid livery breath, farting and burping up quim, unable to unwrench his riveted gaze from a young man's ass.

Here's the ache in it all for me: I know what my palate should taste from the world; I know how to spin the words out of the dross, to even make them into lovely little creatures. But everything sits on my tongue like a chewed over cud. I remove it from my mouth and I see the tender pussy pink flesh of a filet mignon dripping with butter and orgasmically oozing from its own juices. I put it back on my tongue and there is only a tasteless, odorless, textureless substance of which the best that can be said is that it warm and quivers and is not dirt or dust.

Yes, I am paranoid about losing my mind. And I have chosen to live with this decaying carcass of an 800 lb memorized gorilla. You smile: old men are always believing themselves on death's doorstep. Acknowledged. Me even more so. In my foolish youth, I laid my pallet there, overwrought with harebrained notions of zen monk machismo. As much as I lost on that doorstep, I did earn a healthy acceptance of death. With death I am fine. But with this flavorless life, I am not.

I was watching a documentary about Amy Winehouse a while back. There was a moment after she had bottomed out, rehab and recovery, she had just received a Grammy. Celebration all around. At that moment when she should have been happiest, she turned to a friend and said: "It's so boring without drugs". (The actor George Sanders suicide note: "I am bored".) There are days where I wonder, per Trakl and Winehouse, if I have so worn down the thresholds of my senses through extreme behaviors that I am now left with only a benumbed awareness, where nothing will ever be as bright or as shining or as sweet or as rich or as pleasurable as it one was. The one solace, perhaps the only redeemable gift of time, is that meaning never decays or dulls or loses its intensity -  everything has only become more meaningful over time.

Thus the philosophical hermit crab retreats inwards into the abandoned shell, into the deepening mysteries of the Golden Ratio ever deeper in, smiling at a conflated memory of Parmigianino's right hand and his own mis-shapened claw.